Cincinnati at Houston: Three keys to victory

Cincinnati (16-11, 5-9) will try to end a two-game skid Tuesday night when they travel to Houston (24-3, 11-3) to take on the top-ranked Cougars.

The Bearcats are in a position where their tournament hopes are starting to face away after a humbling 75-57 loss at TCU on Saturday. 

Cincinnati will have to turn the page quickly with the short turnaround and try to find a way to limit controllable errors, as Wes Miller would say. 

Keys to Victory

1. Cincinnati will have to find a way to limit their amount of turnovers that Houston's pressure and aggressive style creates.

One of the big reasons Cincinnati was in the game with Houston in the first match up, a 67-62 home loss, was their ability to keep their turnovers to single digits.

UC finished with 17 turnovers against TCU which allowed the Frogs to get 25 points in transition.

"We made errors that are controllable errors," Miller told reporters. "At this point in the year you want to start cleaning stuff up and TCU punished us for those mistakes. They really punished us in transition for communication and focus errors, they punished us for turnovers and poor shots and poor decisions with the ball, and then they were quicker to the basketball on the boards."

Houston is currently #1 in scoring defense (56.1), #1 in field goal percent defense (37.1), #7 in steals per game (10.3), and #12 in turnovers forced per game (16.15).

2. The Bearcats have the ninth best rebounding margin in the country at +8.8 per game. Houston is one of just four teams to out-rebound Cincinnati this year. 

Cincinnati will have to crash the boards with physicality and aggressiveness. The Cougars had 17 offensive boards for the game and an 11-1 advantage to start the game in the first meeting. 

Houston was able to capitalize on those second chance opportunities with 22 points and also scored 38 points overall in the paint. Cincinnati is a program that prides itself on toughness and defense. No better way to display that than doing it against a team that has been built and become nationally relevant by using the same core principles. 

3. While J'Wan Roberts has seemingly played his best game of the year against the Bearcats over the past couple years, it is Jamal Shead and Emmanuel Sharp who come in to tonight's match up as the hot hands. 

Shead was named the Big 12 Player of the Week for the second time this season as well as the Naismith Trophy Player of the Week following wins against 6th-ranked Iowa State and at 11th ranked Baylor.

The Manor, Texas, native averaged 19.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 8.0 assists per game with only four total turnovers in nearly 80 minutes of action against those two. Cincinnati did a good job defensively on Shead in the first meeting, limiting him to a 6-for-25 shooting night and will have to have a similar performance defensively to have a chance at a massive road upset. 

Sharp is averaging just under 16 points per game over his last three, following a nine point showing against the Bearcats. 

Final Thoughts:

Houston is a favored by 13.5 points and it is justified. Cincinnati has continued to struggle down the stretch of games with consistency. There have been opportunities for the Bearcats to make runs while the opposition struggles from the field, but turnovers, bad shots, and mental mistakes have limited this team's success at various points of the season.

"I think i have a high character group. I've never questioned that. They've never given me a reason to question their character, their will, or their care for our team, our program, or wanting to compete."

In a day and age where social media dominates the world and outside influences can take a toll on a player's psych, it is up to Miller to help this team regain their confidence.


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